Zimmerman's numbers don't tell story
Nationals' young star adjusting to being focal point
WASHINGTON -- The secret is out on Ryan Zimmerman. The power hitter is seeing fewer opposing pitchers who are willing to aggressively pitch to him, and as a result is contributing to the team not with big hits, but by finding other ways to get on base.
Over the past 13 games, his batting average is just .264, but he has reached base in all but one of those games.
"A lot of teams aren't going to let me beat them," Zimmerman said. "I just try to do something each game to help us win. If you do something like that, whether it's a walk or a hit, your numbers will be there by the end of the year."
Hitting coach Lenny Harris says Zimmerman's patience is evidence of his maturity as a player. This is Zimmerman's second full season in the Major Leagues, which means pitchers are just now beginning to develop strategies on how to beat him at the plate.
"A lot of pitchers are staying away from him," Harris said. "They know not to leave anything over the plate, because he can do a lot of damage with that."
When pitchers do pitch to Zimmerman, they are trying to keep the ball outside. Last year, Zimmerman had a tendency to chase sliders, something he's worked on this year.
Injuries to the Nationals' lineup have also worked against him. With cleanup hitter Dmitri Young out recently, Zimmerman was the only slugger in the order. His six home runs lead the team.
"Everybody knows he's a power guy, and pitchers are adjusting to him," manager Manny Acta said.
Harris said that Zimmerman's work ethic was one of the best on the team, and he works hard to adjust to the new looks he's getting from pitchers.
Zimmerman is also working on being more selective at the plate. Pitchers are throwing him fewer strikes, which leaves fewer opportunities for big hits.
"I'm being a little more patient," he said. "I'm realizing that they might be -- not necessarily pitching around me, but pitching me more carefully."
It's something the third baseman would like to get used to. At 22 years old, he's emerged as one of baseball's rising stars. Acta said that no matter how much attention comes his way, Zimmerman still comes to the park ready to work every day.
"He's special. He's got a special kind of makeup, and none of that goes to his head, whether it's struggles, success, or being the marquee guy on every billboard," Acta said. "He's made to handle all this."
Michael Phillips is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.